Author Name: Leslie Bratspis
Twitter Handle: @LeslieBratspis
Title of Novel: Vanilla Grass
Q1. How long have you been writing? And what was the first thing you can remember writing?
I was imagining stories before I knew how to write my name. The first one I remember was a fantasy that took place deep in the forest with talking bunnies and a little girl digging holes. It concludes with the girl burying a mysterious piece of paper inside one of the holes. Perhaps one day I’ll write a children’s book and finally solve the mystery of what was written on that paper.
Q2. Did you always want to be a writer?
I think I was destined to become a writer. My father was a successful author and Hollywood screenwriter so I grew up to the clicking sound of his manual typewriter, knowing he was working on his latest novel. Reading has always been one of my primary interests. I’d get excited when my parents took me to the library! I suppose those early experiences are why I love being surrounded by books.
According to my parents, I started reading when I was two. Like most little girls I dressed up and played with dolls, but I had more books than dolls. I read Nancy Drew mysteries and collected them until I had the entire series. “The Secret Garden” and “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” were two favorites I read over and over. One weekend I stayed up an entire night reading “Gone With The Wind” (I had a huge crush on Rhett Butler). In high school, English was my favorite subject. It was then I discovered I had a talent for writing and knew I wanted to become an author someday.
Q3. How did you feel when you were writing this book?
I was deeply connected to the characters while writing “VANILLA GRASS.” It’s the story of a Vietnam Veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who rescues a dog that changes his life. It felt personal and meaningful because I drew from memories of my former husband, a US Marine, twice deployed to Vietnam. Based on current news reports of combatants returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, I created another veteran who served in Iraq. I wanted to write a novel of hope and healing. I achieved this through the character of Sage, a Golden Retriever. Animal-assisted therapy is now used as a means of healing veterans and others with PTSD. Here’s a link to an article on this subject.
Overcoming obstacles and personal journeys of strength are common themes in my writing because I too have had to overcome my own life challenges. Another reason I was personally invested in writing this novel is because all the Golden Retrievers in “VANILLA GRASS” are my dogs. I chose Sage to be the one that changed John Carrows’ life. In real life, Sage was the victim of abuse, blinded in one eye as a puppy. John’s a Vietnam veteran with PTSD living in seclusion because he feels damaged inside and can’t be around anyone. When he finds an injured one-eyed Golden Retriever pup dumped in the woods he relates to her as another wounded soul. As their bond of love and trust grows, their mutual healing begins.
Q4. How long did it take to write?
It took 14 months to research, write, and edit “VANILLA GRASS.” The story literally poured out of me. I was constantly thinking about the characters and scribbled notes in every room of the house because wherever I was, the story and characters were always on my mind. Some weeks I wrote a single chapter, others I wrote three or four. Finally, after editing the fourth complete draft I sent the manuscript to a professional editor. It took a month to receive those notes and get started on making final editorial changes. Professional editing and proof reading are absolutely necessary to publish a quality book.
Q5. Do you have a special place where you go to write?
The home office is where I go to write. When I lose track of time my two Golden Retrievers, Hannah and Bodhi, come charging into the room wagging their tails and demanding my attention. That’s when I realize I’ve been at it for hours and it’s a good time to stop. I don’t have any set amount of time. It varies, but always stops when my canine assistants alert me it’s time to quit for the day.
Q6. When you begin writing, did you ever think you’d get to where you are now?
I’ve realized my dream by releasing two novels that have received positive reviews, and I’m working on a third novel with plans for two others. I’ve amazed myself, but I’ve only just begun!